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Wickens Endures Challenging Monza Weekend

Canadian Showcases Speed but Leaves Italy Empty Handed

Canada’s Robert Wickens endured a tough time out in Italy. Photo by Paulo PellegriniRobert Wickens proved he had the pace to challenge for victory this weekend but the Toronto racer was left thwarted by a pair of retirements as Round 3 of the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series visited Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

A double ‘DNF’ was scant reward having started Saturday’s race from the front-row and subsequently led the event before his first retirement courtesy of clutch problems.  Robert then dominated qualifying for Sunday’s race, but was stripped of his pole because of a grid penalty applied for an on-track incident in Race 1.

His bad luck then followed him into Race 2, in which he was tagged into a spin by a rival’s car and consigned to his second non-score of the weekend.  As a result he loses the lead of the championship, dropping to third after a weekend to forget.
A packed Saturday schedule, consisting of Race 1 qualifying, Race 1 and Race 2 Qualifying, ensured a busy day for the Canadian who assumed the points lead after a win and second place last time out in Belgium.  Cesar Ramos kicked off the action with the closest qualifying session of the season, the Brazilian capturing the first pole with a 1m36.253s lap.  Wickens would take the start of Saturday’s race alongside him on the grid, his third front-row start in five races.

The afternoon’s 28-lap race produced plenty of excitement as the 26-strong pack was unleashed on the 5.73km Italian circuit.  Dropping a spot at the start, Robert successfully defended third and ensured, along with the lead group that Ramos wouldn’t be allowed to dominate.  Ramos and Wickens would ultimately come together at the first chicane fighting for second on the ninth lap – eventual winner, Kevin Korjus, having assumed the lead by this point.

Robert snatched second and took the lead from Korjus at the same spot a handful of laps later after his rival locked up.  Robert’s hopes of victory were quickly dashed when clutch problems forced the 22-year-old into immediate retirement on the next lap.  Jean Eric Vergne joined Korjus on the podium, in second, with Daniil Move rounding out the top three finishers.

Wickens, a race winner at the track the year before in the GP3 Series, bounced back from his retirement and stormed his way to the pole in Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session for Race 2 – but it was to be stripped away from him thanks to a four-place grid penalty awarded after the first race for allegedly causing an avoidable accident after his clash with Ramos.

Undeterred, Robert started fifth on Sunday morning and quickly worked his way into third.  As he was the day before, he was comfortable with his pace and was biding his time for an attack on the leaders.  Unfortunately contact with Spain’s Albert Costa at the second chicane spun him out and Robert’s hopes of a podium to salvage something from the weekend were gone. Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo won the race followed by Alexander Rossi and Jean Eric Vergne.

“It’s definitely been a bit of an emotional weekend with big ups and big downs,” said Wickens candidly on Sunday afternoon.  “I’m hoping we’ve now had our ‘bad weekend’ and we can focus on getting the points lead back.  It’s a shame actually as we were clearly competitive here, the car was fast but we can’t always get a weekend like the one we had at Spa.  We’ll put our heads down, continue to work hard and we’ll be back in Monaco!”

Round 4 of the ‘World Series by Renault’ heads to the famed streets of Monte Carlo and onto the support race billing to the Monaco Grand Prix, Saturday 28th – Sunday 29th May.  For further information on the World Series by Renault please log on to www.worldseriesbyrenault.com

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